There are many conversations that I have shared with women who have successful careers. It seems that there are some common themes which were being shared by the majority. Many have often commented that a perception of being aggressive has been built around them. Some went on to analyze how their male colleagues felt about them even though those feelings were not in any way hindering to their journeys (who’s to stop a woman on a mission anyway).
However, I still think that there are women who are afraid of the notion of being called aggressive. There are still some women who hesitate in meetings and do not raise their voices loud enough to be heard. Despite having a good solution or a brilliant idea, some women just keep quiet or whisper to the colleague next to them. Yet on the other hand, male counterparts seem to communicate their ideas at much ease. This is definitely not a generalization and I do see the opposite of such scenarios sometimes but I still believe that there is an underlying cause which leads some women to take the back seat.
It comes down to the unconscious biases which exist at the male and female level. “Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing – Dr. Renee Navarro, USCF”.
Both men and women have their own views about the role of women and about the type of interaction that should exist between men and women. This belief system may have been influenced by the upbringing of the person, the circumstances which they faced and by the values they hold. Still, these views are so built in within each person’s brain that they become unaware of how they affect their behavior.
So when women hesitate or when they lower their voice it could be because unconsciously they have built the conceptions that people expect them to be softer and that a loud voice suggests aggressiveness. They may not be aware about it but their brain has unconsciously pre-programmed it and that’s what’s being translated into their external behavior.
The key then is for us to be aware of the type of unconscious biases that we carry. Every human carries some degree of bias but those who are able to change are those who acknowledge their preconceived notions and work hard on countering them. Being comfortable with tracking how our belief system affects our behavior is the first step towards being able to choose how our behavior will look like. Maybe then more women will speak up and raise their voices. Maybe then more women will be heard in the meeting room.